The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘An Apparently Consensual Relationship’

Posted on | December 29, 2018 | Comments Off on ‘An Apparently Consensual Relationship’


Lauren McCluskey was returning from class Oct. 22 when she was shot to death on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City. McCluskey was a 21-year-old senior from Pullman, Washington, who was a member of the university’s track team. She was on her cellphone talking to her mother at the time of her fatal shooting, and her mother heard Lauren scream, “No! No! No!” The killer was Lauren’s ex-boyfriend, a man she had met less than two months earlier. On Sept. 2, the first week of her senior year at the university, Lauren went to the London Belle, a Salt Lake City bar, where she met Melvin Shawn Rowland, who was working as a bouncer at the bar. However, Rowland didn’t tell her his real name. He also didn’t tell her his real age — 37 — nor did he tell his new girlfriend that he was a registered sex offender who had spent nearly a decade in prison after being “convicted of attempted forcible sex abuse and enticing a minor over the internet in 2004.”


In the two months since Lauren McCluskey’s murder, investigators have exposed how Rowland, who had been on parole since 2013, was able to evade supervision and how university officials and law enforcement failed to protect his victim, despite numerous “red flag” warnings:

More than three weeks before Lauren McCluskey was killed on campus by an older man she had dated, two of her friends told staff at University of Utah dorms that they were scared about the man’s control over her, how he talked about guns and often stayed in her room.
That Sept. 30 report, and other information learned by housing officials in days that followed, was not passed to university police or campus safety advocates who may have intervened.
McCluskey began reporting her own concerns to campus officers on Oct. 12. But a formal case was not opened until Oct. 19 — and in that weeklong gap, McCluskey twice called Salt Lake City police’s dispatch line looking for more help. And even after campus police opened their case, no work happened because the assigned detective was off, and she did not return to the investigation until after McCluskey was killed.
The man who killed McCluskey on Oct. 22 was on parole, and some of her allegations — and the report to housing officials that he might have had a gun — could have led to his arrest for violations of the terms of his release. But an independent review released [Dec. 19] found: “There was never an attempt by any of the officers involved to check his ‘offender status.’ Further, there were no policies or procedures that required such checks.”
These missed opportunities were among the shortcomings detailed in the review, ordered by U. President Ruth Watkins after McCluskey, a 21-year-old track athlete, was shot to death outside her dorm by registered sex offender Melvin S. Rowland, 37, who later died by suicide. . . .
Former Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner John T. Nielsen, who led the review . . . specified multiple missteps the investigative team found, including the handling of reports by McCluskey’s concerned friends.
And the report described an unaccredited police force that was not trained to recognize or respond to possible interpersonal violence; didn’t know how and wasn’t expected to check on a suspect’s parole status; leaned toward communicating with victims by email or text rather than in person; conducted victim and witness interviews in its lobby; and didn’t ensure important information was followed up on when assigned officers were off duty. . . .
When McCluskey’s friends reported their concerns to housing staff, it appears to have been the university’s first opportunity to step in. Housing officials are often the first to discover a student is in trouble, the review said — but in McCluskey’s case, the early attempt to intervene was blocked.
The two friends told a resident assistant that McCluskey was in an unhealthy relationship with a man who talked about bringing a firearm to campus. One of them expressed fear that McCluskey might get seriously hurt. Both said Rowland had been “practically living with her” at the dorms.
The housing coordinator responded by saying she would talk to McCluskey about the guest policy.
The next day, housing officials agreed a report should be filed with the campus safety team, but nothing ever was because the computerized system was down. As housing officials continued to talk with each other about McCluskey’s situation, they focused on whether housing rules were being broken rather than assessing her safety.
They decided “not to ‘overstep,’” the report noted, because she was an adult “in an apparently consensual relationship.” They did not contact campus police or the behavioral intervention team on campus tasked with responding to cases of abuse.

Oh, she was an adult in “an apparently consensual relationship” with a bouncer from the bar, so university officials didn’t want to “overstep” with this guy who (a) was not a student, but (b) was “practically living with her” in a dorm. Even if there were limits to what officials could do to protect an adult student from her own unwise choices, however, what about their responsibility for the safety of other students? If McCluskey’s friends thought her relationship with this guy was “unhealthy,” and if his presence in the dorm was violating school policy, wouldn’t this guy’s behavior suggest a risk to others? But even after she broke up with him, nobody seemed to take this danger seriously:

Lauren McCluskey was both concerned and frustrated when she called Salt Lake City Police on October 19.
A convicted sex offender whom she had met just a month earlier was continually harassing her after she ended their short relationship. But police at the University of Utah, where she was a student, weren’t doing enough to put a stop to it, she said in a call to 911.
“I’m worried because I’ve been working with the campus police at the U, and last Saturday I reported and I haven’t gotten an update,” she told Salt Lake City Police dispatch.
“They haven’t updated or done anything,”
she added. . . .
McCluskey and Rowland met at a bar in September and dated for about a month until McCluskey learned he had a criminal conviction and had lied about his age and name, the review said. She ended the relationship on October 9, according to a time line of the events.
Over the course of the next two weeks, she called campus police a number of times to report harassing messages as well as an attempted extortion. She told police she sent $1,000 to an account in hopes of keeping compromising photos of her private, according to the review.
Audio from McCluskey’s 911 calls to Salt Lake City Police show that she was increasingly frustrated by the pace of the university investigation. She first called Salt Lake City Police on October 13 to say that she had been blackmailed for money, and the dispatcher advised her to talk to University of Utah police.
“I’ve contacted them already, I just wanted to talk to you as well,” McCluskey said. “Yeah, I was just concerned because I wasn’t sure how long they were gonna take.”

Whoa! A college girl calls 911 to report she’s being blackmailed with “compromising photos” by an ex-boyfriend who is a convicted felon, and your response is to tell her to call campus cops? Meanwhile, the campus cops are doing . . . what? Nothing? Eating donuts?

Compare and contrast this case to what happened to Jeremy Rowles, who was a Ph.D. student at the University of Missouri when he made the mistake of asking a fitness instructor for a date, and was suspended for “harassment.” Campus enforcement of Title IX policy has become so extreme that any male student who asks a girl for a date is at risk of being expelled, but they let a convicted sex offender move into a girl’s dorm?

As I explained in the Missouri case, the problem “is that we have abandoned the social norms by which courtship was once regulated,” and “young people find themselves attempting to negotiate relationships in a Hobbesian nightmare (‘Bellum omnium contra omnes’) of social anarchy, where the rules are uncertain.” Add in the factor of political correctness — I don’t have to point out the obvious, do I? — and university officials are helpless to do anything to prevent real dangers, while at the same time persecuting students for relatively harmless behavior.

(Hat-tip: Kirby McCain on Twitter.)



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